In September 2000, there were a series of conversations between a disability advocate and film maker, a sexual health professional and a sex worker. The main topic was training for sex workers who wished to provide services for clients with special needs. These special needs may arise in people with disability, adults recovering from sexual abuse and clients referred by other health professionals for hands on sexual therapy. Sessions may be sought to recover their relationship skills, abilities to initiate and maintain intimate relationships and sexual functioning.
By October 2000, a group of sex workers, the disability advocate and film maker and a disability sexuality and human rights trainer from FPA Health gathered to explore the potential and options. We began the meeting by acknowledging that Sexual Surrogacy covers a broad range of specialist services to a variety of clients, including people with a physical disability, intellectual disability and the non-disabled. Clients of all levels of ability may arrive with issues of sexual function or intimacy they wish to work on, and they may be referred by health professionals, informal networks or be self-referred.
It was decided that at this meeting that the group would begin by focusing on the potentials of building relationships with the community of people with disability, as people with disability were already reaching out to the sex industry for support to achieve their own sexual agendas.
The group recognised the potential to build on any progress achieved with a pilot training for sex workers to gain deeper awareness of issues relating to working with people with a disability. If successful we could extend the sex worker training to cover the other surrogacy client issues, and create additional training programmes for carers and service providers.
The decision was made to form a committee to meet on a monthly basis. Invitations were made to the disability community. After initial hesitations on the part of disability organisations, having had little or no formal prior contact with the sex industry, the membership of the newly named ‘Touching Base Committee’ quickly grew.
Within three months our committee included private sex workers, people with disabilities and representatives of Family Planning NSW, People with Disability Australia Inc, Access Plus, ParaQuad, North Shore Hospital -Spinal Care Unit, Headway, the NSW Council for Intellectual Disability and SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project).